Ko Pha Ngan is an island located in the south-east of Thailand and is the fifth largest in the country. It is well-known for its white sand beaches and an active nightlife. However, that’s not all that the island has to offer. If you wish to enjoy the scenic beauty in some serene and idyllic spots, then Ko Pha Ngan will introduce you to truly spectacular vistas of large granite and limestone outcrops, lush tropical forests and hilly areas that are perfect for hiking. The island is 70 kilometers from the mainland and 12 kilometers from Koh Samui. Once a favorite among past kings of Thailand, King Rama V had visited the island 14 times during his reign.
Beaches & Water Activities
Hat Rin (Popular)
Perhaps the most famous spot in Ko Pha Ngan, Hat Rin is sought out by tourists for its monthly Full Moon Parties, lasting overnight. Hat Rin has two main beaches – the Hat Rin Nai (Sunset Beach) and the Hat Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach). The bars at the Hat Rin Beach put up nightly fire shows for entertainment. If you are a party-person or enjoy live music, Hat Rin is a beach you must visit.
Mae Haad Beach (Popular)
The Mae Haad Beach known best for snorkeling also lets you explore exotic marine life and coral reefs to your heart’s content. Two different water currents meet at the beach, meaning that the water here is of two different shades. You will also find many massage booths and hammocks along the beach as well as resorts lined up all along the seafront.
Sail Rock (Recommended)
Considered the best diving site in Thailand, Sail Rock is located between Ko Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. You can catch a glimpse of whale sharks, manta rays and other fascinating marine creatures underwater. You can enjoy all of this at the Sail Rock, even if you have no prior diving experience. The diving season is from April to October when you can hope to catch sight of fascinating marine creatures up close.
Instead of just relaxing on the beach, why not kayak and discover some new, off-beat parts of the island? Kayaks can be rented from several beaches on the island and their prices vary from 100 – 150 Baht per hour.
Haad Yao Beach (Off-beat)
If you need somewhere quiet to bask in the sun or read a book at leisure, head out to Haad Yao Beach. This is a small, not-so-crowded beach with several resorts and beach bars, worth visiting, for its clear waters and relaxed atmosphere.
Chaloklum Beach (Off-beat)
Another quiet and serene spot on the island, with turquoise, warm waters, is the Chaloklum Beach. It is sure to provide you with a chance to relax and enjoy, away from the crowds. The bay houses a small fishing community in the Chaloklum village and you can find a number of restaurants and bars to satisfy your food cravings with freshly caught and inexpensive seafood.
Nature and Wildlife
Than Sadet-Ko Pha Ngan National Park (Popular)
One of the most visited national parks in Thailand, Than Sadet-Ko Pha Ngan National Park, has a lot to offer to visitors. It has a diverse topography featuring rain forests, mountains, waterfalls, and even a temple. The river, Than Sadet, forms a number of waterfalls and pools in the national park and is much sought out by trekkers and photographers alike.
Phaeng Waterfall (Popular)
The Phaeng Waterfall is a two-level waterfall with a steep hiking trail that leads to the scenic Domsila Viewpoint. Located inside the Than Sadet-Ko Pha Ngan National Park, the Phaeng Waterfall is easily accessible and is best visited after the rains.
Ang Thong National Marine Park (Recommended)
Located off the coast of Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui, Ang Thong National Marine Park is a tropical paradise with vistas straight out of a postcard. It offers some of the most unusual and spectacular scenery in all of Thailand. The park’s claim to fame is the steep limestone cliffs teeming with wildlife including long-tailed monkeys, turtles, and pythons. The national park also has diving and snorkeling sites for enthusiasts.
Khao Ra (Off-beat)
The highest mountain on the island, Khao Ra is perfect for hikers. From the summit, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Chaloklum Bay and Koh Ma Island situated on the northwest coast. The entire hike (to and fro) takes about three hours.
Elephant trekking (Off-beat)
If you need a couple of hours off from all the beach-hopping, explore the jungle on the back of an elephant. The elephant trekking will take you through the mountain paths and the palm forests, where you can enjoy wonderful views and click some Instagram-worthy photographs. If you get to the elephant trekking center early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you might even get a chance to see the elephants as they bathe and frolic about.
Wat Kow Tahm (Popular)
A Buddhist temple and an international meditation center, this place is popular with both regular visitors as well as with foreigners that come to practice Buddhist meditation. At Wat Kow Tahm you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view from the top, participate in meditation workshops or take an extended silent retreat (Vipassana) course.
Wat Phu Khao Noi (Recommended)
Wat Phu Khao Noi is the oldest temple on the island. Situated on a mountain peak, it offers impressive vistas of the island and is an extremely tranquil location if you want to just sit and admire the view. If you visit the Wat in the morning, you can even watch the monks while at prayers.
Wat Maduea Wan (Off-beat)
A highly revered place of worship of the local residents, the Wat Maduea Wan is a beautiful temple located on a hilltop. Two enormous five-headed serpents in red and gold, on either side of the stairs, make for an impressive entrance and are an attraction for tourists.
Shopping and Dining
Thong Sala Night Market (Popular)
Also known as the Phantip Night Market, this place is one of the must-visit food stops on the island. The Thong Sala Night Market is open for business from 4 pm to 11 pm every day. You will find a wide range of dishes to satisfy your palate – from local Thai delicacies to burgers and pizzas as well as lots of vegetarian options. Prices range from as little as 20 Baht to up to 100 Baht for a meal.
Walking Street on Saturday (Recommended)
The Walking Street market leads through the old town of Thong Sala. On Saturdays, all the traffic is stopped on this route and the streets are open for pedestrians to walk. Foodies and shopaholics can spend a fun Saturday night here, shopping for clothes, accessories, and souvenirs as well as indulging in the local Thai culture and cuisine.
Amsterdam Bar (Recommended)
Located on the east coast of the island, the Amsterdam Bar overlooks the ocean and offers the best view in Ko Pha Ngan for sunsets. The bar opens daily from 5 pm to midnight. It is recommended that you get in early as the seats tend to fill up fast. With a low-key, relaxed vibe, this place is suitable for families. The bar also hosts a number of bungalows on the hillside that are available for rent if you wish to spend the night here.